Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wolf Pack/Dominance Myth

I had a call from an alert member (as Dave Barry would say) asking for more information about a statement in my training myths article that was the subject of a previous blog post. The statement was as follows:

"Scientific research into the natural history and behaviour of dogs and wolves has debunked the dominance myth without question. Find a dog trainer that no longer believes in dominance hierarchy or the need to show the dog who’s boss."

In answer to that question here is a sampling of resources that provide scientific references and/or useful commentary on the subject.

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position Statement

International Positive Dog Trainers Association article (no references but good article for the general public)

NY Times Article about the Cesar Milan approach with quotes from wolf expert David Mech

Publications by wolf expert David Mech

Watch the "Alpha Roll" in action

by Raymond & Lorna Coppinger. Buy this book from Dogwise

Biologic Basis of Behavior of Domestic Dog Breeds by Roy Coppinger and Lorna Coppinger

A conversation with Roy and Lorna Coppinger

Here is an excerpt from the above:

Barbara: Among your new views of the dog is a rejection of the trainer as the "alpha wolf" and the dogs as the "submissive pack member." Why have you rejected what has essentially become dogma in the dog training world?

Ray and Lorna: The alpha wolf model of dog training certainly does appear frequently in print, but we wonder if it was ever really incorporated into serious dog training. We suspect it was never very useful in training dogs, and that almost everybody intuitively knew that. It was "say one thing, do another."

Certainly all the new techniques, such as click and treat, are not based on dominance. We've watched top trainers like Terry Ryan and Ken McCort, and never saw any hint of "I'm the dominant wolf." People who try modifying aggressive dogs don't try to "dominate" them into submission. Everybody agrees that would be a disaster. Imagine training a wolf by dominating it. Quick way to get killed.

It is a mistake to think that because dogs are descended from wolves, they behave like wolves. Wolves do not show the "alpha roll," or any other hierarchical behavior, except in specific circumstances, particularly during reproductive and feeding behaviors. Wolf packs on a hunt are working cooperatively, and hierarchy goes by the board.

Training dogs is fun for me and for the dog, as it should be. Our sled dogs ran because running is fun and feels good. Endorphins are released, social interactions are increased. Try running while you're being submissive. Dogs aren't pulling sleds because they are forced to or are submitting to some person's will. Everybody who ever drove dogs knows that you absolutely cannot force them to do it.

Barbara:It will be hard to get that alpha wolf/submissive wolf thinking eliminated from the parlance of dog training, but for starters, how should people think about their relationship with their dog?

Ray and Lorna: It won't be hard to get the wolf pack mentality to go by the board simply because we don't think many of the experts ever really believed it. It is through social play behavior that animals learn from one another. Further, it is fun to play with our dogs even if none of us learn anything. It will certainly make more sense to the dog than to be tumbled onto its back and growled at by a human.

Colin Allen and Marc Bekoff have recently drawn attention to a category of behaviors they call intentional icons. Dogs have signals they use when they want to play — the play bow. The play bow is a signal that all the following behaviors like growls and snarls are all in fun. Consider what might happen if you gave the "dominant male" intentional icon, indicating everything that happens from now on is about the driver being the dominant dog. The sled dogs, if they were reacting as submissive wolves, would then lie on their backs and pee in the air instead of running as a team.

Instead of threatening our dogs every time we want to train them, we need to perfect the human play bow which tells the dog the games are about to begin. Remember that games have rules, and what the dog and the humans learn during play is what the rules of the game are. That makes sense in teaching or training, whether it is dogs or students. The intent of dominance display is to exclude the subordinate from some activity, like breeding. The alpha wolf isn't trying to teach the subordinate anything.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dog Safety Speech Wins First Place!

Douglas Rigdon won first place in his district 4-H speech contest in December! His category was Companion Animals and he competed in the 8-10 year old age group. Douglas won first place in both his category and age group with his speech about "How to Be Safe with Dogs". Doggone Safe is proud to have helped with this terrific accomplishment by allowing Douglas to use some of the photos from our website and Be a Tree program in his speech.

Congratulations Douglas!

IPDTA Conference - Perceptive Concepts

When: May 2-3, 2009
Where: Kitchener ON


Jesus Rosalez-Ruiz - Poisoning the Cue, and how to make 100% positive reinforcement training a reality without sacrificing a dog.
This MUST SEE presentation will provide visual and scientific proof of how the smallest, most subtle and seemingly harmless aversive can destroy a dog's willingness to learn. "This PowerPoint presentation was a real eye-opener for me and made me re-examine everything I am doing!" Norma Jeanne

Dr. Stanley Coren - Canine Personality and Temperament Testing

Teresa Lewin - Tears and Fears - Recovery after the Dog Bite

Kathrine Persal - Chewber - The Power of Toys in Training

Norma Jeanne Laurette - Positive Reinforcement vs. Positive Punishment

Discussion Panel - Training Problem Solutions

Click here for more information and to register

Make a Tax-Deductible Donation

Doggone Safe is a 501(c)(3) charity in the US and can issue tax receipts for donations. We can issue tax receipts in the US only. To make the donation process simple for us and for donors we have signed up for You can make a donation through this service and receive a tax receipt right away. Click here to make a donation from the US.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Top 5 Dog and Cat Training Myths

By Joan Orr

Published in Pets Magazine, Jan-Feb 2008, page 28

Top trainers and behaviour experts weighed in with their top picks for dog and cat training myths. Here are the top 5 in no particular order.

MYTH #1: The cat/dog pees in my bed, chews my shoes or engages in other unacceptable behaviors when I am out because he is spiteful or is mad at me. Conversely, my dog should do what I want because he wants to please me.

FACT: Dogs and cats are not moral beings and do not have a concept of “right and wrong”. They are capable of neither spite nor the advance planning required to get back at you. Animals do these “bad” things because they are anxious. The most likely causes of severe anxiety are being left alone or fear of punishment upon your return. They feel better when they relieve themselves or chew something. They are attracted to items that carry your scent, because they associate you with food and companionship and so are more likely to damage items that you use frequently. Dogs do what pleases the dog (as do cats). Don’t expect your dog to behave just to please you anymore than you would expect to go to work just to please your boss. Be prepared to make it worth the animal’s while using treats or play and your dog or cat really will do what you want.

MYTH #2: The dog barges through the door, takes the leash in his mouth, jumps on me or pulls on the leash because he is being dominant and is trying to raise his status in the pack. I must act like a pack leader to stop the dog from taking control.

FACT: The dog engages in these behaviours because they have been reinforced. That is, some favourable consequence (to the dog) has occurred as a result of doing these things. Any behaviour that is reinforced will be repeated. The dog pulls on the leash and gets to move forward, so he will pull on the leash again. The dog jumps on someone and they pet him or even yell and push him off (exciting for the dog) and so he will jump again. Scientific research into the natural history and behaviour of dogs and wolves has debunked the dominance myth without question. Find a dog trainer that no longer believes in dominance hierarchy or the need to show the dog who’s boss.

MYTH #3: I don’t have to teach my dog or cat to be good with my kids. They should know that the kids are part of the family.

FACT: Dogs and cats do not come knowing how to interact appropriately with humans. Kittens and puppies are generally friendly, but don’t assume that this will last into adulthood without specific training. Many dogs and cats are surrendered to shelters because of this very assumption. For the best chance of success dogs and cats must be taught using positive reinforcement (play and treats) how to behave around people, especially children.

MYTH #4: Animals have to make mistakes and be corrected or punished in order to learn. The only way to get truly reliable behaviour is to punish the animal when he is bad or makes a mistake.

FACT: Animals (people too!) do not have to make mistakes to learn. Learning occurs best when the animal is feeling happy and confident. Fear of punishment impedes learning. Punishment may suppress behaviour in the short term, but is needed time and time again as the animal does not really learn from it. The most reliable behaviours are those taught by setting the stage for the animal to succeed and then rewarding success. The world’s top trainers of assistance animals, performance animals and working animals train by teaching the animal what TO do (as opposed to what NOT to do) and then giving a food or other reward when the animal does the right thing. There are a million ways to do something wrong, but only one way to do it right, so it makes a lot more sense to teach the right way to do something than to punish or correct if the animal does it the wrong way.

MYTH #5: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks and you can’t train cats period.

FACT: Of course you can teach an old dog new tricks and you can certainly train cats and any other animal for that matter. The laws of learning apply to all species, young and old. Behaviour that is reinforced is repeated. Behaviour that is not reinforced fades away. Find a way to get the animal do to the behaviour you want, limit the opportunity for behaviour you don’t want and give the animal something it likes as a consequence of appropriate behaviour. The animal will be more likely to repeat that behaviour in the future, giving you yet another chance to reinforce it.

Click here to download PDF version of this article

Click here to view it on-line at the Pets Magazine site

Click here to read about the top 10 dog behaviour myths in an article by Jean Donaldson, published in Dogs in Canada Magazine.

Dog Bite Prevention Week - 3rd Week in May

Dog Bite Prevention Week is the 3rd week in May. This is a great opportunity to do some community service, educate the public or local school children and promote your dog-related business at the same time.

We have lots of information and downloads at our website, many of which you can copy and distribute for free.

Click here to download our Dog Bite Prevention Week press release. Doggone Safe members, you can download this as a Word file and customize with your own contact and other information as required. It is available at the member web page.

Member Benefits

Not a member? It only costs $20 to join. Click here to see some of the member benefits. Benefits include $10 off the Be a Tree teacher kit, $10 off the Basic Body Language on-line course and $10 off the Be Doggone Smart at Work on-line course. We are practically paying you to be a member!

Seminar In Rockland County NY - May 21

Presenter: Kerry Potter-Kotecki (Doggone Safe VP US Operations)

When: May 21, 2009
Where: Clarkstown Town Hall
Cost: Free

Clarkstown Town Clerk David Carlucci will be sponsoring a seminar on dog bite prevention, in honor of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, at Clarkstown Town Hall, 10 Maple Avenue, New City, NY, on May 21, 2008, at 7 P.M. in room 301. Dog bites are one of the nation's most commonly reported public health problems, despite being largely preventable. Alarmingly, 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, according to the CDC. Therefore, as the licensing authority for issuing dog licenses, Carlucci feels a responsibility about taking action in educating residents on this important safety issue.

In order to raise awareness about dog safety in our community, Clarkstown Town Clerk David Carlucci, has invited Kerry Potter-Kotecki of Doggone Safe, a not for profit organization, to provide an informative seminar for residents. The seminar will provide empowering information to promote healthy, safe, dog friendly communities! This program is an excellent opportunity for parents, dog owners, or anyone who is around dogs to learn Basic Dog Body Language!

With almost 5 million victims of dog bites annually in America, Town Clerk Carlucci urges residents to educate themselves at this important seminar. Please visit or call Clarkstown Town Clerk David Carlucci at 845-639-2010 for more information or questions

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Be a Tree for Preschoolers?

By Judi Dowson

I did the Be A Tree presentation at a day care centre. I was a little concerned that the 4 year olds might not comprehend - NO WAY!! They got into the "acting" session big time. They were fantastic! There were two sessions and I was told they were different kids in each session, except for one little boy. His primary language was German, but somehow he picked up on the word "turkey". It was hilarious to watch him interacting with the pictures, yet every other word (other than German) was "turkey". We had a lot of fun!!! Since then, I have had two kids ask to pet my dog. When I asked where they learned that - they said "You were at our day care, remember!!!" A total feeling of gratification.

Dog Behaviour Seminar - Apr 22 - Toronto

Understanding and Solving Canine Behaviour Problems

In an effort to understand the basis for canine behavior, participants will develop and understanding of how both genetics and the learning process influence the appearance of behavior problems in dogs. Treatment programs that address problems such as aggression, separation anxiety and obsessive-compulsive behaviours will be examined using audio visual aids and case studies. This workshop is very useful for persons working in veterinary clinics, dog trainers, students or anyone wanting to know more about canine behavior.

Instructor: Kerry Vinson - Canine Behaviourist

Centennial College, Scarborough ON

Wed Apr 22, 6:30-9:30

Preregister by Mon Apr 20

Download flyer for details

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Welcome to Our Blog!

Welcome to the Doggone Safe Blog. How Exciting!

In an effort at better communication we are starting this blog. As you may or may not have noticed we have been quite delinquent with our newsletter. It just gets to be such a huge job, that it doesn't get done. We can just blog bit by bit whenever the mood strikes us or some diligent member sends us some interesting news or even a photo (hint, hint).

This blog will replace the newsletter letter content and each month we will send out a brief note to all newsletter subscribers with a list of the blog contents for the month. You can then come to the blog to see the details and look at the photos sent in by diligent members (another hint).

You can even comment on the blog posts, so hopefully that will open up greater communication among members.

Send us news, events, happenings, experiences with Be a Tree presentations, and most importantly photos! We will post event notices here for any event that is related to dog bite prevention from both members and non-members. Notices for other events will be posted for members only.